Review by Sean Boelman
On the festival circuit, there are usually a few films that you just know are poised for breakout success, and Bill Oliver’s Our Son is a prime candidate to be a smash at Tribeca. Our Son is an early contender for best of the fest, led by two extraordinary performances and restrained, lovely direction that makes this powerful drama all the more effective.
The movie follows a long-married couple whose relationship becomes tumultuous when one of them decides they want a divorce. Although there have been plenty of films to tell this story before, Our Son stands out as one of the first to deal with a same-sex couple.
Like Marriage Story before it, the success of Our Son lies in its nuance. The characters we meet in the movie often behave selfishly. Yet, we still resonate with the core humanity of the situation. However, as is often the case with many films about the theme of divorce, the movie often falls short when it comes to discussing the perspective of the child.
Still, there’s no denying that the film is a powerful examination of these themes. It’s refreshing to see a depiction of the LGBTQIA+ community that is so open about the complexities that its members face in relationships. Although many things are the same, there are also things that are much more difficult. Our Son will become an essential part of queer cinema canon not in spite of, but because of its similarities to movies featuring straight protagonists — as the element of comparison is particularly powerful.
Billy Porter is excellent here, giving a performance that is refreshingly free of his usual schtick. Viewers may be surprised by how unfussy he is, radiating sadness and humility — even when his character makes frustrating decisions. Luke Evans is also functioning on another level, with a performance that is extraordinarily empathetic and often downright devastating.
The area in which the film does feel lacking is its pacing — particularly when it comes to the third act. The movie is able to effectively get from point A to point B, and there are plenty of thoroughly effective beats along the way, but it does struggle with its momentum. A timeline with several unclear gaps works to the film’s detriment.
Oliver’s direction is very performance-focused, giving the movie a very intimate, almost theatrical sensibility. However, certain aspects do stand out, such as the musical cues, which are often poignant — including the needle drop at the credits, which is lovingly and longingly sung by Porter.
Our Son may feel quaint, intimate, and familiar, but it is quietly important in its own way. This is likely to be one of the most noteworthy movies of this year’s Tribeca, partially thanks to its star power, but also because it is rather exquisite.
Our Son screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.